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Central Plains Milk Snake
Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis

Size:
  • Hatchling: 5 - 8 inches
  • Adult: 16 - 36 inches

Scalation:
  • Dorsal: 17 - 21 rows
  • Ventral: 181 - 208
  • Sub caudal: 40 - 51
  • Infra labial: 8 - 10 (usually 9)
  • Supra labial: 6 - 7 (usually 7)
  • Anal Plate: Single

Photo courtesy Troy Hibbitts
click to enlarge

Coloration:

Head:
The head ranges from solid black, to black with a white flecked snout, to having the snout all white with scattered black flecks. The temporals are also oftern white.

Dorsal:
From 20 to 32 triads of red (or orange), black and white; the average is 26. The white rings are usually from one and a half to four scales wide (usually 2 or 3), the black rings range from one and a half to four scales as well, and the red rings range from zero to five scales wide. Often, the red rings are interrupted middorsally by black pigment.

Hatchlings tend to have white rings which are very bright and uncluttered with black flecking, while in most adults these bands darken considerably, often appearing gray. In some specimens, the white is tinted with yellow or cream. The red, too, varies from individual to individual, as well as between populations. In most specimens, the red is a dull to bright orange in color, in others it can be nearly brown, while still other individuals, it can have a very deep red color. Often the orange is flecked with black pigment, further obscuring the color of the snake.

Several anerythristic (lacking red) specimens have been collected, but have have not been widely bred and are not available commercially.

Ventral:
The ventral surfaces of most gentilis are blotched with black on white. Usually, the white corresponds with the dorsal white rings and the black corresponds with the black and orange triads. However, this pattern can be offset, and occassional individuals have all white or all black venters.

Behavior:
Gentilis can be found from March to October. It is presumably surface active only at night, but very few are collected crossing roads. The vast majority of gentilis collected are found under rocks near their winter hibernacula in the spring. Flat limestone ledges on rocky, prairie hillsides are favored locations for these snakes.

Many gentilis are fairly nervous and jumpy snakes. Many will not settle down in captivity and continually strike and buzz their tails. Some specimens will jerk spasmodically when held, smearing musk and feces about while biting their captors. Other specimens calm down quite nicely.

Breeding:
Gentilis require a 3 month brumation period in order to stimulate breeding, much like other temperate species of kingsnakes. Breeding will usually commences shortly after the animals are warmed up. The male will usually bite the female behind the head while copulating, and copulation can occur for an extended period of time (several hours). A clutch of 2 to 9 eggs will be laid 30-40 days after fertilization. Egg size (and therefore neonate size) depends largely upon the size of the female. Incubation usually takes about 60 days at 82 degrees Farhenheit.

Range:
This subspecies is found from the north Central Texas (Witchita Falls) west to the edge of the High Plains (Lubbock) northwest into Colorado and north through Oklahoma and Kansas. It enters Nebraska south of the Platte River (much of the Nebraska population are intergrades with the Pale Milksnake). Gentilis intergrades with sypsila in east-Central Kansas and (presumably) in central Oklahoma; with celaenops in the Texas Panhandle, and with amaura in south central Oklahoma and north central Texas.

Habitat:
Gentilis is primarily a snake of the open prairie. It is most abundant in areas with limestone rock outcroppings, but can be found in the brittle sandstones of the high plains. It also ranges into the foothill valleys of the Rocky Mountains in the vicinity of Denver and Boulder, Colorado.

Prey:
Most wild gentilis probably eat lizards: Skinks (Eumeces), Fence Lizards (Sceloporus), and racerunners (Cnemidophorus). They also probably feed on mice (Peromyscus) and voles (Microtus), in addition to small snakes (Sonora, Tantilla, Tropidoclonion). In captivity, juveniles can usually be started on scented mice or skinks, and most wild caught adults typically feed readily on pre-killed lab mice (fuzzies or small weanlings).

Literature Cited:

Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1991. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Co., Boston.

Williams, K.L. 1988. Systematics and natural history of the American milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), 2nd revised edition. Milwaukee Public Museum.

Riley County, Kansas
Photo by Kirk Setzer
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Russell County, Kansas
Photo by Kirk Setzer
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Weld County, Colorado
Photo by Kirk Setzer
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Photo by High Mountain Reptile
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